Boris Johnson has insisted he would have pushed on with the controversial Garden Bridge and blamed his successor Sadiq Khan for wasting millions of pounds of public money on the project.
In a bullish appearance at City Hall, the former London mayor described the collapse of the project as a ”bitter disappointment” and claimed his only regret was not getting started on it earlier in his time in office.
He directed the blame at Mr Khan, his Labour successor, who scrapped plans for the tree-lined bridge along the Thames after a damning report by Dame Margaret Hodge said it could have racked up a bill of more than £200m.
Some £37m of public money had already been spent on the plans for the bridge before it was scrapped.
Mr Johnson told the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) oversight committee: “That’s not the decision I would have taken were I still doing the job I once did.”
Shifting the responsibility onto Mr Khan, the Foreign Secretary claimed that his successor never gave the project the “political push” it needed, claiming a further £9m was wasted on top of the £37m outlay while he “blew hot and cold about it”.
Mr Johnson said: “The worst thing you can do really with something like that is not make up your mind, be warm towards it one day, then listen to the sceptics the other day.
“To get anything done in London you have to push, push, push and really believe in it.
“In the end I think he (Mr Khan) decided it was not invented here, it’s not his baby – and it’s very sad.”
Mr Johnson said he accepted responsibility for taxpayers’ money that was wasted during his time in office – but later insisted he had not wasted “a single penny”.
He told the committee: “Not a single penny of taxpayers money has been wasted by me. It has been wasted by the current mayor of London, who cancelled the project, completely unnecessarily, having previously given the impression he supported it.”
Asked if he would have done anything different now, Mr Johnson said: “I think what I might have done, in retrospect, I mean the obvious thing I would have done is got it started earlier. “If we had our time again, we would have started it well before the Olympics.
“The problem with these things is always political. It’s always about have you got enough time to get the permissions, get everybody around it, mobilise public opinion in favour of it. I think by the end the Garden Bridge had done a fantastic job.”
Mr Johnson raised the prospect of reviving the Garden Bridge in future, saying: “Frankly I hope that one day the whole thing is revived and I think it will be.”
He said that “all fantastic infrastructure projects, all great projects are hated by the public at a certain moment in their life cycle”.
A spokesman for the mayor said: “The Mayor welcomes Boris Johnson answering questions on the Garden Bridge, given the catalogue of failures that occurred around the project under his watch, and the tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money wasted.
“When Sadiq took over as Mayor huge outstanding issues remained around the Garden Bridge, with the project facing spiralling construction costs, a funding gap of over £70m, and no agreement on how to fund maintenance costs.
“Sadiq couldn’t risk a situation where London taxpayers had to step in and contribute millions of pounds in additional funding to ensure the project could be completed.”
Mr Khan killed off the project last year as he said he would not “expose the London taxpayer to additional financial risk” after estimated costs for the bridge spiralled to £200m.
Dame Margaret Hodge, a senior Labour MP who oversaw the review, said it was “difficult to justify further public investment” after major donors were lost before any building work even began.
During the hearing, Mr Johnson dismissed her probe as a “gimcrack affair” riddled with “peculiarities”, and refused to before the inquiry which he said was “odd” and “curiously framed” by not being on a statutory footing.
Mr Johnson and former chancellor George Osborne backed the project, which was initially devised by Absolutely Fabulous actress Joanna Lumley.